The “establishment,” which includes the military and secular elite, used the judiciary to send a red light to the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) Freedom and Justice Party. It was obvious that such a move would come from the 60-year-old group some day.
In the flush of victory with its great success in the elections for the Parliament and Shura Council, the Brotherhood turned a blind eye to the reality of the country. Falsely imagining that the political establishment yielded to democracy, it attempted to redesign the country. At times the group challenged the army and threatened to create “another revolution if needed.” At other times, it urged the Kamal Ganzouri government to resign despite the fact that its term in office will end within two months.
It made its historic error by electing Islamists to two-thirds of its 100-member Constitutional Assembly, which was put together to draft the new constitution. The liberal groups, which played a prominent role in the overthrowing of the Mubarak regime, weren’t given enough representation.
Relying on a similar decision the constitutional court gave in 1994, Cairo’s administrative court abolished the Constitutional Assembly on the grounds that half of the members are from the ranks of parliament. Some groups have claimed that the Brotherhood was in close contact with the army. This rapprochement was being likened to the alliance the MB had made with Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954. After grabbing power, Nasser dealt a heavy blow to the MB movement.
It was as if the same scenario was being staged once again. Being harshly criticized by democratic groups after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the army needed a powerful organization like the MB to ward off the negative reactions. It managed to strike a deal with the brotherhood, and the squares were vacated at once.
After averting public pressure, society and intellectual circles expected the army to sideline the Brotherhood in the critical moments defining the history of the country: the drafting of a new constitution and presidential elections.
Preliminary signs of such a move from the army came last month. In response to the Brotherhood’s move to force the Ganzouri government to resign, the army, referring to 1954, said some groups had failed to learn a lesson from history.
Furthermore, the MB’s intention to restrict the army’s involvement in commerce triggered the members of the Supreme Military Council of the Armed Forces to announce they would not allow any intervention into their commercial enterprises.
Amid such a tense atmosphere, the MB gave Islamists an overwhelmingly high representation in the Constitutional Assembly, thereby making a catastrophic mistake, which gave a golden opportunity to the (military and political) establishment to sabotage the constitution drafting process.
The“you-can-be-elected-to-office-but-you-cannot -wield-power” cliché, which was parroted by the proponents of the establishment in Turkey, started to come true.
The ‘democracy mirage’ of Islamic groups that tended to be tyrannized, excluded and treated as terrorists turned into a nightmare.
What can be done now? It is not too late to reverse this process. The suspension of the Constitutional Assembly actually offers a good opportunity for the Brotherhood. Now, its supporters will be less inclined to criticize the concessions the MB will give to liberal and leftist groups.
The MB and Salafis must sit at the table with liberals and leftists to redesign the composition of the Constitutional Assembly. Here, Islamic groups must take into consideration the country’s realities and balances. If the current policy is maintained without a change, it may push liberal groups to seek an alliance with the army. This will lead to a strong comeback of the Mubarak regime, which was never overthrown completely.
Therefore, all political groups and actors especially the MB, must examine the case of Turkey in detail. Normalization in Turkey was able to start, only after the army’s sway over civilian government was eliminated. As long as the army preserves its strength, the Brotherhood will never wield power even if they acquire the posts of president and prime minister.
The army’s main responsibility should be the defense of the country against external threats. Its intervention into politics, law, and economy may pull the country into a type of chaos that could last for years.
The army remained the only institution in which the public still had confidence when the Mubarak regime was overthrown. Now, it must regain this confidence. Slogans celebrating the harmony between the public and the army should echo in the streets once again. The more the army does to keep away from politics, the more the people will begin to love it again.